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October 9, 2020

Bashir Memon refused post-retirement benefits in AJK, pursued in Pakistan

National

October 9, 2020

ISLAMABAD: Former DG Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) Bashir Memon is back in the headlines; this time not only in Pakistan, but also in Azad Jammu & Kashmir.

He is not only the centre of political discussions, but also a hot topic in bureaucracy. Above all, high courts in Islamabad and Azad Jammu Kashmir have lauded his integrity and moral courage. Although his interview this week provided the much-needed fodder to the opposition suggesting that he’d refused to obey unlawful orders of Prime Minister Imran Khan, two recent decisions of high courts define his character.

In Pakistan, he is contesting for restoration of his post-retirement benefits like pension which was blocked by the government unhappy due to his defiant attitude as DG FIA. He considers them his legitimate right and therefore moved the Islamabad High Court which has ruled in his favour.

In AJK, he refused to avail himself of the post-retirement perks and privileges notified for the federal officers who would serve there as chief secretary and inspector general police. Memon was there in the latter capacity. He refused because he considered it was not his legitimate right. This week, the AJK High Court has ruled that special benefits must be discontinued and lauded Memon for refusing them when others benefited.

The story dates back to 2017. Memon was IGP of AJK before his appointment as DG FIA in 2018. During his stint there, he came across this practice of privileges granted to the top two bureaucrats. While this had been an ongoing practice in the case of retired chief secretaries, the police chiefs would form part of the privileged retired elite when Memon was there. It was through a prime ministerial notification issued without taking his consent.

Before that, two notifications were already in operation. The retired chief secretaries, according to these notifications, were allowed to possess one prohibited and two non-prohibited bore weapons, free access to government guesthouses, rest houses, circuit houses in AJK and Kashmir House (Islamabad), pick and drop facility at airport with protocol coverage, a staff car, services of a driver and a cook to be appointed by the beneficiary himself for lifetime.

As though it was not enough, another notification was issued in March 2017 to add further entitlement: 800 units of electricity, 25 cubic hectometres gas, 200 litres of petrol per month and 800 free telephone calls.

The notification also declared that the IGPs serving AJK would avail themselves of these post-retirement benefits. The chief secretaries and IGPs are taken from the federal government and they are called “lent officers.”

As Memon got wind of the matter, he refused to avail himself of these facilities and wrote a letter to the AJK Prime Minister Raja Farooq Haider on March 29, 2017. “The privileges would put additional burden on the AJK exchequer,” he wrote, at a time when the entire budget was less than one trillion.

The annual budget that year was Rs72billion for the entire state of AJK. The notification, he demanded, should be repealed from the date of issuance. More than the AJK government, this letter didn’t go well with bureaucrats who served there at the top positions. They urged Memon against such a radical decision. Memon said he didn’t ask to revoke privileges for all, as he had refused for himself.

From the government side, no action was in sight as the notification wasn’t cancelled. This week was decisive when the AJK High Court directed the government to discontinue the special benefits being offered to retired chief secretaries and IGPs. The court took up the matter when a lawyer moved it.

In the verdict, the court reproduced the letter that Memon had written to the AJK PM in 2017 as an “example of moral courage and self-esteem of a senior lent officer that provides us many lessons to learn.” The verdict further notes: “The phraseology of Mr. Memon’s letter provides guidelines to the AJK government for protection of its exchequer.”